By Breona Couloote
Infographics courtesty National Alliance on Mental Health

The thought of therapy is quite scary to the average person. Being open, honest and vulnerable to a stranger is not the easiest thing to do. However, your mental hygiene is important to your overall physical health. Jasmine Rajan, a biology major at The City College of New York, states “if someone does not take care of their mental health, their physical health can be deeply impacted too.”

1 in 5 Americans has a mental health condition. In 2017, suicide became the 10th leading cause of death in America. About 6.61 percent of those who passed away from suicide were Black. Nevertheless, Black teenagers have the highest suicide attempt rate compared to any other racial group. Unfortunately, Black people are very underrepresented in mental health studies.

2 out of 3 Black Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association states that only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receives it.

According to the US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are 10 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than White Americans. Black Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than White Americans. They are more frequently diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to White Americans and generally receive a lower quality of care and access to culturally competent care.

Although the rates of mental illness in the black community are rising, discussions of mental health and therapy still remain a taboo subject. Due to stigmas about therapy, Black Americans are less likely to seek treatment.

People who suffer from a mental illness are often referred to as “crazy” and conditions like depression are referred to as “ a white person’s problem”. Some individuals may not be comfortable with the idea of telling someone personal issues that they would not feel comfortable telling close friends and family members. Some people maybe shamed by family members for not praying enough to get rid of their mental health problems.

These stigmas hold a common theme of facing judgment.

Rajan asserts “I think people don’t go to therapy because they are too afraid they would be seen as weak for going to someone about their issues”.
Though stigmas attached to therapy are still relevant in society, some organizations are trying to normalize therapy. Taraji P. Henson, actress, and star of “Empire” founded an organization called The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. Named after her father, the organization focuses on changing the perception of therapy in the African American community. The organization also supports African American therapists and bringing the support of mental health wellness into urban schools. Ayesha Shafqat, an education major, affirms “we need more diverse counselors working in the school system”.